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Student Spotlight

The MBA life:
Students tell it like it is

What's it like to be a Johnson School student today? What are students doing and thinking? Beginning in August 2007, six Johnson School students began writing blogs detailing their experiences. The excerpts on these pages will give you a sense of what you'll find in them. To access all six blogs, go to the Johnson Blogs Web site at [www.johnson.cornell.edu/blog/student].

Ulka Ranadive, MBA '08

Ulka Ranadive, MBA '08
August 29, 2007

I'm an Accelerated MBA 2008 student. Prior to that, I earned an MS in computer science and worked for over eight years in computer networking startups and industry leaders. As a software engineer, I learned a lot about various leadership styles and how they affect team dynamics and deliverables. But most important, I realized that in order to achieve my long-term goals in entrepreneurship, I needed to gain a business perspective. The challenging Johnson School AMBA program with world-class faculty and a talented, focused student body provides exactly what I was looking for. I am excited to share my experiences with you and provide my perspective on life at the Johnson School.

A student entrepreneur
October 6, 2007

Entrepreneurship is something I am very passionate about. One of the reasons I came to business school is to gain business expertise and understand how to run a successful organization.

Earlier this year I cofounded a company with my husband, Mangesh Wadegaonkar, MBA '07, who graduated from the TMO (now called AMBA) program last year. While he is working on the biz idea full-time, I help him out as time permits. Currently, I am working on setting the technological direction and refining the business model. I am also helping to set up the engineering team and designing the user interface of the product.

Yes, as you might have guessed, with all the varied activities I am involved in at the school, it is very difficult to manage time. Being one of the AMBA entrepreneurs, one thing I can say for sure – if you are pursing this program and trying to launch your own company, you MUST be very focused in what you do at school. You simply cannot attend all the corporate briefings, you simply cannot look for jobs in different industries (i.e., try out investment banking first and go after consulting), you simply cannot participate in all the clubs that require 8-10 hours of commitment on a weekly basis, and neither can you enroll for 18+ credit hours during the semester!

I personally did have to make some extremely tough decisions along the way but it's always good to be focused and I enjoy coming home and working on the biz. Until now, I have only attended two corporate briefings and am considering only three positions for my short-term goal, which is to get the much-needed, real-world experience and hone my expertise to run a successful organization.

But, wrapped among the tough decision making for an entrepreneur at the Johnson School is one of the greatest learning experiences you will ever undergo. And that is being able to integrate your biz idea with your course work! In each of the classes, I try to focus more on concepts that will apply to our startup venture and to my next job.

Jeff Gangemi, MBA '09

Jeff Gangemi, MBA '09
August 10, 2007
I grew up in York, PA, and attended Middlebury College, majoring in Religious Studies. After graduation, I spent two years working as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer for the San Diego Council on Literacy and then the International Rescue Committee. After traveling with my now wife, Shannon, I moved to New York, where I joined Business Week's B-Schools Channel and later the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Channel. I recently spent five months in Argentina writing for Business Week and volunteering for a microfinance organization. I'm now a Park Leadership Fellow and excited to share my experiences with you.

Mentors
September 9, 2007
I've complained a lot over the years (to my wife especially) about the lack of positive male role models in my life. Of course, my dad's a great and talented guy, and I respect his Renaissance man skills and abilities. . . . But I'm talking about people closer to my age, who have had similar life experiences, or at least who see themselves and where they're going in a similar way that I do. And although I didn't come to business school just to find that kind of influence, it seems to have found me.

The Park Leadership Fellows program requires that all first-year students have a second-year Park as their mentor. A graduate of the Air Force Academy and officer in that branch, my mentor, Kyle Rasmussen, MBA '08, has the kind of leadership experience that is rare at any age. And the fact that he commanded about 800 people and a fleet of high-performance military aircraft at the age of 24 puts him in a league without too much company. Like me, he's married (in fact he just had his first child about two weeks ago). Also like me, he took the Sustainable Global Enterprise immersion.

Since his wife was pregnant and he couldn't travel to New York or some other urban locale for his internship this past summer, [Kyle] took the lead on the business side of a joint project with the Engineering School to develop a radically fuel efficient car [see the Automotive X-Prize story, p. 8]. He's dedicated to continuing that project through this year. Kyle's career interests are varied; he's a man with many passions, all strong. . . .

I connected with my other mentor, Rishad Olpadwala, MBA '08, as part of the Johnson Career Management Center's Career Work Group program. Of course, they didn't pair us up for nothing; our interests align quite closely. Like me, Rishad worked in the media industry. He spent nine years in Los Angeles, most recently as a freelance production manager in video and film production.

Rishad focused on environmental studies as an undergrad at Cornell and always kept his eye on the rapidly evolving clean technology space, even as he was managing the production of commercials for clients like Nike, GM, and Heineken, among many others. After a while, he grew to believe that his dream career change was fast becoming a "now or never" proposition.

So Rishad jumped in with both feet. And he's so far succeeded in the process of making his career leap. He completed the Sustainable Global Enterprise immersion, and, during last year's second semester, helped a venture capital firm assess opportunities for renewable energy in emerging markets. He landed a great internship in the solar sector for the summer and is currently planning his next move.

Along his path so far, Rishad has learned a lot of lessons about the job search, and he's set on passing those lessons along to me and the other guy in our group. He's already challenging me to not just take a job, but to pursue the best of what's out there.

It's obvious that there are great people at Cornell. But to have access to them, and to have them challenging me every day, is, well . . . overwhelming, to be honest! But I believe that learning and growth comes from constant challenge, and with such great role models, I know I'll be much more at the end of my time here than I was coming in.